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Council-run Children’s Home That Put Kids ‘At Risk of Harm’ Now Closed

Published on: 20 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 22 Apr, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A children’s home where staff shortages and “significant” management failings left its residents at risk “of significant harm” has closed.

It is the second Surrey children’s home to close this year. A home run by Huriya Care UK Ltd was closed in February.

The latest closure is of an unnamed home run by Surrey County Council. It provided care and accommodation for up to six children with emotional and/or behavioural difficulties.

An inspection by Ofsted found that children at the home were not making sufficient progress because their needs were not being met and their safety was being compromised.

Inspectors found at the interim inspection in February that the home had “declined in effectiveness” since it was judged “good” at its last full inspection in May 2021.

A Surrey County Council spokesperson confirmed the authority had made the decision to permanently close the home within 24 hours of receiving Ofsted’s findings and place the children in alternative accommodation because the current building was no longer fit for purpose.

The spokesperson said: “This arrangement will ensure the children receive care that is appropriate for their needs, in a safer environment, until their new home is ready.”

They added that the county council agreed with Ofsted’s findings and had already started implementing an alternative solution at the time of the inspection, “alongside working hard to finalise the build of the new home as quickly as possible”.

The inspector’s report said: “Significant failings in the leadership and management of this home have resulted in poor practice which has led to children being left at risk of significant harm.”

Inspectors said effective action was not taken to address “emerging damaging dynamics between the group of children” which led to them not having the opportunity to develop their social or personal safety skills, or enhance their emotional well-being.

Ofsted had put several requirements to improve on the home, covering areas such as health and well-being, children developing and benefiting from relationships and children being protected from harm, as well as concerning leadership and management, and staff employed at the home.

Inspectors also raised concerns about staff levels at the home, with two “serious” incidents taking place when the safety of the children and staff were compromised, and police had to be called to help restore order.

The report said that no investigation was carried out by management after the first incident, and there was not a “coherent strategy” put in place to prevent a similar situation happening again.

The report said: “On both occasions, there were insufficient numbers of staff present to support and divert the children from engaging in increasingly dangerous behaviours.”

A high turnover of staff at the home also meant that in one month, the children were cared for by more than 30 different members of staff including bank staff and agency staff.

Inspectors said in the report: “It has therefore been difficult for the children to build meaningful relationships with their carers.”

As well as this, inspectors highlighted the lack of consistent support given to staff who had to manage frequent confrontational situations and worked long hours, particularly when responding to children who had gone missing from the home.

There were also no arrangements in place for agency staff to receive supervision, and inspectors said there were not adequate checks in place for agency staff working at the home to make sure they had the necessary experience and skills to support the complex needs of the children there.

Inspectors said: “Consequently, the children have received a poor standard of care from some of the agency staff working at the home.”

A county council spokesperson pointed out that most of the authority’s children’s homes were graded “good” or “outstanding” in 2020 and 2021, and that a £34m investment would improve accommodation for looked after children in the county.

They also said there would be £2.4m put towards increasing management capacity and “upskilling” the workforce.

Replacement homes are currently being built, including a replacement for the one that has been closed. The spokesperson said new and smaller homes would be better for children, providing a more homely environment which would enable appropriate staff supervision.

The authority’s spokesperson added: “Staffing issues in children’s homes are being faced nationally, and we are actively recruiting permanent staff to ensure as much consistency as possible for the children in our care.

“As well as significant capital investment, we are undertaking a systematic review of all of our children’s homes to ensure consistency in our approach.

“We know that children in care are disadvantaged and that their outcomes are poor when compared to the general population and our investment programme will both enable us to recruit and retain staff, and also provide purpose-built units with modern building efficiency, to help keep Surrey’s children and young people safe and well cared for.

“It will also ensure we can support children with the highest and most complex needs and maximise occupancy levels in each home.”

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